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Calypso Marine: The Art of Boatbuilding

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Time-tested craftsmanship combined with state-of-the-art technology. This is a great way to describe the boats built by Christopher ‘Chris’ Scott and his team at Calypso Marine, in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. There’s no doubt about the popularity of Scott’s Pirogue and Deep V designs. You’ll see them on nearly every Caribbean island at work as sport fishing charters, ferries, dive boats and pleasure craft.

The art of boatbuilding is a time-honored tradition in Trinidad & Tobago. The creation of the twin island country’s signature Pirogue, crafted from a lap-strake construction process over a century old and started when vessels were made out of wood rather than fiberglass, is a special talent that has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s no surprise that Scott learned all of his marine manufacturing skills from his father, Dennis Scott.

“My dad was trained as an aeronautical engineer,” says Scott. “He loved to fish and started building boats under our house. I began working with him full-time at the age of 15. He taught me everything.”

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The Scott family patriarch moved the boatbuilding business to Miami, Florida, in 1985. Chris went with him. Once there, the two changed the name from Scott to Calypso Marine for catchier marketing. Economic downturns in the late 80s and early 90s led Chris back home to Trinidad and in 1994 he restarted the family business. Today, Calypso Marine is known for its Pirogue and Deep V craft, hand-fashioned in sizes from 15 to 37-feet.

“The Pirogues are displacement boats that provide a flat dry ride,” Scott explains. “They are great all-purpose boats. Our 34-footer can easily go from 12-foot seas into an area with only 20 inches of water.”

The Pirogue is a traditional Caribbean-style fishing design recognizable for its sharp 60-degree bow and raised sheer forward combined with a moderate V that has about a ten degree deadrise at the transom. Fully reversed chines add stability and keep spray channeled downward.

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The Deep V is a model that Scott has added to his repertoire more recently. He claims it’s the driest designed hull of its type. This feature is something an owner noticed when they cruised some 30 miles offshore to the Virgin Islands North Drop for fishing and stayed perfectly dry. At fast speeds the boat’s planing hull creates an extremely comfortable ride.

Scott’s operation at Calypso Marine is the antithesis of a big factory that spits out cookie-cutter production boats. The emphasis at his operation off Chaguaramas’ Western Main Road is one-at-a-time custom construction. Scott sits with prospective owners and talks through every detail desired.

“I have ten guys that have worked with me for many years,” says Scott. “We don’t use machine cut-outs or computer imaging to create the design. I start with the wood and shape it like my dad taught me to create an exterior with an aesthetic sleek look. Everything is custom. We hand lay all the fiberglass and we don’t use spray on resin or chopper guns. Even though I’m the owner, I still spray the gel coat, roll the fiberglass and cut the wood.”

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Scott installs equipment as per the owner’s request such as hi-tech electronics, full auto-pilot and twin-screen radar once the exterior and interior are complete. A 32 to 34-foot Deep V will take on average four to six weeks to complete. The advantage of his location on the northwest coast of Trinidad is the ability to easily trial new vessels in calm bay waters as well as the rougher Caribbean Sea to the north and Atlantic Ocean to the east.

Next up, Scott is considering a move to a larger location in Trinidad. Plus, he’ll also be building a bigger boat. A 45-footer is in the works for a customer in St. Martin.

“Tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll build it,” says Scott. “What makes me happy is seeing the finished product and my customer’s happy.”

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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